By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Many questions are routinely asked about the impending trial of Speaker of the House, Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn), who has been indicted on 23 felony counts of public corruption. One question that has recently entered the public conversation is, can the State expect a fair trial in Hubbard’s home county?
Veteran journalist Bob Lowry recently asked this same question in a column for Inside Alabama Politics.
Lowry points out that Hubbard is a popular figure in Lee County, and since his indictment, has received vocal support from many public officials, including Auburn Mayor Bill Ham, Auburn City Council member Beth Witten, Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones, and others.
While the question is appropriate, the prosecution has no choice but to hold the trial where the charges were filed.
“Rule 10 of the Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure gives the defendant, and only the defendant, the right to try to have the case moved to another county or to change the venue,” says Gadsden-based attorney Eddie Cunningham. “The State of Alabama does not have the right to do that. It is all laid out in the rules of criminal procedure. To be granted a change of venue, the defendant has to be able to prove to the court that there is a reasonable possibility that a fair and impartial trial can not be had in the county where he is indicted,” said Cunningham.
Cunningham points out that an individual who is indicted for a violation of the ethics law can be, “tried either in Montgomery or in the county where the crime allegedly occurred.”
Hubbard could have been indicted in Montgomery, but Cunningham says, “ he could have it moved from Montgomery to Lee County. Public officials usually get to try their case in their home county.”
Many like Lowry are concerned that the jury pool will be tainted by all the positive or slanted press Hubbard has received in his home county. However, as Cunningham says, “The State didn’t have any choice. They alleged those crimes took place in Lee County so therefore he has to be tried in Lee County.”